Former NFL player Ross Tucker, now an analyst for Sirius NFL Radio and SI.com, looks at the NFC East and the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry through the eyes of a former Cowboy ...
"The fact that the Cowboys are considered 'The team to beat' in the NFC East, yeah, it puts a lot of pressure on them. But when you look at that roster and see the depth chart, you see that their backup linebackers are Bobby Carpenter, Anthony Spencer and Kevin Burnett, you see that two of those players are first-round draft picks! That's unbelievable! They have so much talent on that roster, that you have to put them up top as the odds-on favorites in the division.
"This is a great division, top to bottom. I think people are taking the Giants lightly, and we've already seen how good they can be defensively. Washington is struggling offensively, but the Redskins have a very strong defense and are going to be there in the end in the playoff picture. I think teams in the division are going to finish anywhere between 7-9 and 10-6. That's the kind of division it is.
"I played for both the Redskins and the Cowboys, and the sense I got from being in Dallas, the Eagles were a bigger rival for the Cowboys than were the Redskins. For most of this decade, the Eagles have been the big dogs in this division. Even last year, when Dallas was as dominant as any team in the division, the Eagles went into Texas and beat the Cowboys.
"It's a great rivalry. Both teams know each other very well and they both attack each other that way. I think defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has a very good feel for what Dallas and quarterback Tony Romo like to do. I put Johnson up there with Rex Ryan (Ravens defensive coordinator) in terms of what they do with their blitz packages. The Eagles last year, even with some injuries in the secondary, still came after teams and still had success keeping teams out of the end zone. That is a credit to the scheme and to the faith that Jim has in his people.
"Now the defense has cornerback Asante Samuel and you see what kind of player he is. With that deep secondary, the Eagles can blitz Romo with linebackers and still have solid coverage behind the pressure. The key here is to take Romo out of his rhythm and make him throw some interceptions. Romo can get rattled, just like any quarterback, when he has a blitz in his face every time he drops back to throw the football.
"Dallas is a very, very good team. They are playing great football right now. Romo is on his game. I think this is going to be an outstanding game, and the Eagles have to figure out what the Cowboys are doing with their protection schemes and find a way to slow the Dallas running game and, most importantly, get in Romo's face."